Migraines and VA disability ratings
Matthew: Hello and welcome to another edition of the Hill and Ponton VA video blog. Today we’re going to talk to you about migraine headaches. These are headaches that are actually more than headaches; they can be all-encompassing. The thing we see with migraines a lot is an underrating. A lot of times, we’ll see the VA actually is service connected and connected at zero.
The way I look at migraines, it’s akin to mental health illnesses and that the VA has a difficult time properly rating something they can’t see. If the veteran is missing a limb, it’s pretty obvious how that should be rated. But when it comes to a disability that is not something that can be touched or readily observed – meaning you walk into the doctor’s office and there it is – it’s something they typically get wrong.
Carol: A lot of migraines are suffered by women. Men have migraines as well. But because fewer men have migraines then a lot of this people who are evaluating these cases have no idea what a migraine or headache is. I’ve heard them say, “It’s just a headache.”
Migraine is more than a headache. A migraine is a devastating attack on your body. You can’t think. Your head feels like it’s going to explode. You may have to go to a dark, quiet room. It may last a day, it may last hours, or it may last two or three days. If you have frequent migraines, it’s very hard to do much of anything else.
Matthew: She head on what’s important because when you go to a C&P exam for migraine, the way they’re evaluating you is how many migraines you have that cause prostrating episodes.
Carol: To go to your bed or to a dark room.
Matthew: Causing you to lay down. They never ask you how many times you have to lay down. They just ask you, “What do you do?” It’s very important. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a veteran be rated at 0% when they have to lay down almost once a week, if not a couple times a month, which should at least be a 30% rating.
Carol: Veterans are asked, “How often do you have a migraine?” and the problem is they’ll say, “I have two a month” They failed to say, “My migraines each last three days and I have to go to bed for those three days.” That’s prostrating, that’s devastating.
They need to make sure that they tell them all that and the symptoms: “I’m nauseous. My head hurt so bad I can’t think. I can’t really function mentally.” That’s what a migraine is. Instead of just saying, “I have headaches,” you need to be very descriptive of what you have.
Matthew: Even worse for veterans is that the max rating you can have for migraine is 50%. So if you’re having the type of migraines that Carol is talking about, it makes working difficult, if not impossible.
Matthew: What kind of employer is going to let you just leave and lay down three times to seven times a month? It’s important you realize that even if you have just a 50% rating and the migraines keep you from working then you should apply for unemployability. The trick is since your rating is below 70% or 60%, the VA at the regional office cannot grant you unemployability.
What you have to do is keep pressing for that. You need to get letters from your doctors, from friends or family that observe you. Keep on pressing for that in saying that you want your case to go to the VA central office to be evaluated, because they’re the only ones who can grant unemployability in a case that is not greater than 60%.
Carol: The rating of 60 or 70%. If you have other ratings that get the overall rating up to 70% then you definitely should be considered at the local office for total disabilities. Only when say your only disability is migraines that you have to make sure that you get letters from your doctor showing that these migraines are disabling – you cannot work – and then ask that your case be reviewed by the central office.
Another thing with migraines is depression. Inevitably, people that cannot function, they never know when the migraine is going to hit. They become depressed. You’re not reliable. You can’t tell when you can go see your friends and you can’t tell if you can go to work. A lot of them become depressed. That’s the secondary service connection they should file for, and maybe the two together, we’ll get them the 100% they deserve.
Matthew: It causes isolation both occupationally and socially. That is a way to get over that threshold. We’re talking about cases where the veteran just can’t work or can’t be out. It’s just important for you to be as descriptive as possible when it comes to migraines. Especially when it comes to recovery, how often you have to have a recovery that involves you lying down.
The VA does not do a good job of explaining what prostrating is to veterans. A lot of times the veterans I speak to have a 0% rating end up having to lay down once or twice a week, which we should give them the max evaluation of 50%.
This is just something we see and we wanted to share with you all on migraines and how they affect you. It’s important to fully describe what’s happening. Not only how often they make you lay down, but as Carol said, what the recovery time is on the backend and how long it takes you to get back up and function as you normally would.
Thank you and see you next time on the video blog.